Sunday, June 26, 2011

Sower of Seeds!

This winter and spring I've been working with First Congregational Church UCC of Bellingham WA, preparing them to make their own silk banners. We started out with 5 silk workshops and over 35 participants, to learn technique. Everyone showed up at church with colorful silk scarves this spring.

Now that people had some skills under their belts a smaller group, 8 of us, met to work up a design for two large Green Season banners. This truly IS art-in-community, a great example of art from the "bottom up." The idea is for the art to arise from the community itself, in this case from deliberation on a set theme. Coming to a common vision is very often the hardest part of the whole process. But the rewards are great: a deeper understanding of the theme as a group, and a communication of that understanding to the wider community.

In this process I acted as facilitator, providing materials, technical knowledge and artistic encouragement. My goal was to pull the design from the group itself, and to step back where I was not needed.

We met three times before our painting workshop.  The main theme was "Growth", and the texts we explored were several:
Psalm 148  "Song of Creation," Isaiah 55: 8-15 " My word will not return empty", and Mark 4:3-9, "Sower of seeds." We also talked about the grace of water, and its importance in many religions.

As part of our explorations I asked people to draw images that came to mind and bring them to our third meeting. Often this starts us off with yet more dialog, but there was someone who had been listening very carefully to the conversations, and had captured everything we had talked about in her two sketches. Here they are:
Emily's sketch  I
Emily's sketch II

The group decided to go with Emily's sketches (with a few slight revisions of course), as the design for two 9-foot by 55-inch silk paintings for their sanctuary.

Night, turning towards dawn

My job was to take the sketches home and blow them up big, revising them slightly for the silk, and then apply the general outlines of the design to the silk. After the silk was prepared we met in the church basement to apply the dye. Amazingly, it took only two 6-hour days to complete the two large banners. 
Night, thorns, rocks, seeds and the Bird of Hope that sings before dawn
Emily paints the Angel

It takes a village....
Following are pictures of the second banner: Day. 

Though the overlaying theme of these two pieces is the parable of the Sower, like a good poem these paintings contain many levels of meaning.

Alyson paints the Tree of Life
Some of the meanings are yet to be discovered when their new audience asks questions of the paintings. Just as we asked questions of the texts, now the wider community will ask those questions. Maybe even a sermon or two will be preached on those questions.  

I am very proud of this project, as I feel a true objective has been met here: That of leading a group of people to create something of their own for their worship space.  And they will experience the true power of sharing art in community: Their vision will support and help shape the community's summer theme and life together.